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  • Flyoverphobia

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 17th, 2018 (All posts by )

    So, there has always been a tension existing between city folks and country folks; the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse being an example. Then there are all those jokes about the city slicker and the country bumpkin, the effete city dweller and the down-to-earth country folk, the books, movies and television series painting the city as a glamorous yet spiritually and physically unhealthy place, the country being dull, desperately boring, backwards, even a bit dangerous … all in the spirit of good fun, mostly. But now we have a new and malignant version, and there is nothing at all fun about it. Here we have the bicoastal enclaves, all drawn as the glamorous and fabulously wealthy, sensitive and with-it woke folks … and then you have the flyover country in between, filled with – as the bicoastal see it – with those hateful, stupid looser deplorables, clinging to their guns, and religion, and hating on all those with darker skins.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurship, Leftism, Trump | 12 Comments »

    Shithole Countries

    Posted by Jonathan on January 13th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Anecdote of a recent conversation:

    A: Where are you from?

    B: A bad part of Kingston.

    A: What part is that?

    B: All of it.

    Did Trump say “shithole”? It sounds like his typical bombast that enrages people who don’t like him. It also sets a trap for his political opponents by reframing the conversation. The questions whether we should favor immigrants from specific countries and with specific personal qualifications are back in play. Many voters think these questions are important despite the continuing efforts of establishment pols of both parties to stipulate them as beyond the pale. The attempt to conflate the characterizations of countries and of individuals is a rhetorical sleight of hand intended to dismiss doubts about mass-immigration by unskilled people from dysfunctional countries. Ann Althouse nailed this point. The doubts are reasonable — Wouldn’t the French and Germans have been better off heeding such concerns in the recent past? Shutting up people who express such thoughts may be more likely in the long run to lead to an immigration moratorium or other crude measures than to convince the doubters to acquiesce in the admission to the USA of more unvetted young Somali and Central American men.

    What Trump was saying, as ordinary people will understand it, is obviously true: We should encourage immigration based on our country’s needs rather than on the needs of prospective immigrants; we should favor people who are likely to be highly productive; and we should attempt to screen out criminals, terrorists and people who are mainly interested in welfare-state subsidies.

    There are many talented people in Haiti, but as a country Haiti is troubled and unproductive, which is why so many Haitians want to leave. Perhaps Mia Love is bound to criticize Trump based on Trump’s crudeness of expression and reported disrespectful words, but Trump is right. There were good reasons for Congresswoman Love’s family to leave Haiti for the USA. We are lucky to have them, but that’s not the same thing as saying that we should let in every Haitian who wants to come here. We should be more selective and we should reform our immigration bureaucracy to make things easier for the people we want.

    We can expect additional inflammatory stories about Trump’s supposed racism and other character flaws while his negotiations with Congress on immigration continue.

     

    Posted in Immigration, Politics, Rhetoric, Trump | 58 Comments »

    It’s looking as though the Trump team surveillance was done without a FISA warrant.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on January 10th, 2018 (All posts by )

    The war between President Trump and his government and the Democrats is heating up.

    Yesterday Diane Feinstein declassified and released the Simpson testimony transcript.

    In doing so, Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues are acting at Simpson’s behest. In his recent New York Times op-ed column (written with his colleague Peter Fritsch), Simpson complained about Republicans’ leak of selected details from his testimony to various congressional committees.

    Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley has resisted the release of the transcript while the committee has yet to complete its investigation. Senator Grassley is not happy with Feinstein.

    One assumption, that I think well founded, is that this was done to coach subsequent witnesses to get their stories straight.

    Kim Strassel is one who has been reporting on this She has a new report.

    consider an email recently disclosed by the Young Turks Network, a progressive YouTube news channel. It’s dated Dec. 19, 2017, and its author is April Doss, senior counsel for the committee’s Democrats, including Vice Chairman Mark Warner.

    Ms. Doss was writing to Robert Barnes, an attorney for Charles C. Johnson, the controversial and unpleasant alt-right blogger. Mr. Johnson’s interactions with Julian Assange inspired some in the media to speculate last year that Mr. Johnson had served as a back channel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. There’s still no proof, but in July the Intelligence Committee sent a letter requesting Mr. Johnson submit to them any documents, emails, texts or the like related to “any communications with Russian persons” in a variety of 2016 circumstances, including those related to “the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign.”

    Mr. Barnes seems to have wanted clarification from Ms. Doss about the definition of “Russian persons.” And this would make sense, since it’s a loose term. Russians in Russia? Russians in America? Russians with business in the country? Russians who lobby the U.S. and might be affected by the election—though not in contact with campaigns?

    Ms. Doss’s response was more sweeping than any of these: “The provision we discussed narrowing was clarifying that the phrase ‘Russian persons’ in [the committee letter] may be read to refer to persons that Mr. Johnson knows or has reason to believe are of Russian nationality or descent”.

    This is actually humorous. “Russian descent?” There are now jokes about ordering Russian Dressing in DC can get you investigated.

    The truth is not as funny.

    It looks like the surveillance of the Trump campaign was done by DOJ and the FBI without warrants at all. That is very illegal and should put some people in prison.

    President Obama’s political operatives within the DOJ-NSD were using FISA 702(17) surveillance “about inquiries” that would deliver electronic mail and phone communication for U.S. people (Trump campaign). The NSD unit (John Carlin) was working in coordination with the FBI Counterintelligence Unit (Bill Priestap, Peter Strzok etc.) to look at this campaign activity. DOJ Attorney Lisa Page was the intermediary between the DOJ National Security Division and he FBI Counterintelligence Division.

    In an effort to stop the FISA 702(17) activity NSA Director Mike Rogers initiated a full 702 compliance review. However, before the review was complete the DOJ-NSD had enough information for their Russian narrative; which was built upon FISA-702(17) that began in July ’16 per James Comey. Mike Rogers stopped the FISA702(17) process on October 26th 2016. As a result of his identifying the activity, Rogers became a risk; DNI James Clapper demanded he be fired.

    The plot was the “insurance policy” Strzok mentioned. The story is becoming more clear every day.

    On November 17th, 2016, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers went to see President-Elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower, New York. –SEE HERE– Director Rogers never told his boss DNI, James Clapper.

    ♦ On November 18th, 2016, the Trump Transition Team announced they were moving all transition activity to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. –SEE HERE– Where they interviewed and discussed the most sensitive positions to fill. Defense, State, CIA, ODNI.

    The transition team was set up in Trump Tower. The very next day, November 18th 2016, Trump moves the entire transition team to Bedminister New Jersey?

    Does this make more sense now?

    Yes, it does.

    It looks like they dd not even apply for a FISC warrant after they were turned down in July. They just “did it.”

    Sort of like the scene from “Absence of Malice.”

     

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Elections, Trump | 26 Comments »

    Gorilla Of Our Dreams

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 9th, 2018 (All posts by )

    “All Norfolk need do is sign that paper and treason will have been committed…”
    “Then let him sign it, and let it all be done.” – from the movie Elizabeth

    Every couple of days, I look at the Trump-bashing headline stories on various news sources that I follow, and I think … nah, they can’t possibly top this, for spittle-flecked, screaming, chew-through-the-restraints insane rage. Yet within days – yep; topped, and topped again. I have never seen such spittle-flying rage against an American president, and I am old enough to remember the animus against Nixon, and especially Johnson. I was only in my early teens, and a serious consumer of the LA Times (back when it was a substantial newspaper), yet the sustained abuse of Johnson on every aspect of his person and character (both real and imagined) was so unbelted that I actually rather felt sorry for the man. Knowing of his faults then and later, much criticism of him was richly deserved, but the especially vile stuff, I think we could have all done without. Honest criticism can be done without the spittle-flecked irrational rage, although in the Age of Trump such clinical detachment seems again to have dropped even farther out of fashion.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Current Events, Internet, Leftism, Media, The Press, Trump | 11 Comments »

    Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 7th, 2018 (All posts by )

    (I post an archive entry from my Celia Hayes blog, on the eve of the Golden Globes awards, All Hollywood seems to be running about with their hair on fire, casting accusations everywhere, regarding who knew or didn’t about the casting couch, who got an advantage from utilizing the casting couch, and who behaved badly to whom. I’m working on a post about this week’s Trump madness, and the time just got away from me.)

    (Example #1 – William Holden, publicity still)

    There are boys enough in the movies now, all dressed up in costume and mincing around, waving the prop weapons in a manner meant to be intimidating. Generally they look a bit nervous doing so. They have light boyish voices, narrow defoliated chests, delicate chins adorned with a wisp of beard, and sometimes they come across as clever, even charming company for the leading lady or as the wily sidekick to the first name on the bill, but as hard as they try to project mature and solid masculinity they remain boys, all dressed up in costume pretending to be men. Even when they try for a bit of presence, they still project a faintly apologetic air. Imagine Peter Pan in camo BDUs, desert-boots, full battle-rattle and rucksack. It’s a far cry from picturing John Wayne in the same get-up. Where have all the cowboys gone?

    (Example #2 – Robert Mitchum w/Deborah Kerr in “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison“)

    You could not really describe John Wayne as movie-star handsome; neither could you honestly say that Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Charlton Heston or William Holden were movie-star handsome. (Save perhaps Holden, early on.) They had something more – magnetic physical presence. They owned a room, just by walking into it. They had lived-in faces, especially as they got older, rough-hewn, weathered and individual faces, broad shoulders, strong and capable hands, and total confidence in themselves – even when the plot necessitated a bit of self-doubt.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Culture, Current Events, Diversions, Film, History, Media | 15 Comments »

    The Gods of the Copybook Headings are Coming.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on January 7th, 2018 (All posts by )

    There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, explained by John Derbyshire here, That warns of consequences that will come no matter how much we wish it otherwise.

    Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one’s handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings — the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.

    The poem is severe and depressing, as Kipling was when he composed it.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    We are now in an era where the rules of civil society seem to have been repealed, or at least violated with impunity.

    Retribution is sure to follow.

    The present Deep State, or “Swamp” if you prefer, seems to be nearing some sort of denouement

    The House Intelligence Committee now has the bank records of Fusion-GPS. They were turned over Friday after a federal judge on Thursday shot-down a last-ditch effort by attorneys from Fusion to get an emergency injunction.

    Chairman Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee now have the records of payments made by Fusion-GPS to “journalists and media companies” during 2016 and early 2017 when Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby and Peter Fritsch were shopping the Christopher Steele ‘Russian dossier’ to enhance the “Insurance Policy”.

    I expect to see rats going overboard now on a daily basis.

    Most of the direct (“small group”) FBI (CoIntel), DOJ (NatSec Division) and Special Counsel co-conspirators are only able to talk amid themselves. They know by now they are being monitored and they have strong suspicion the size of the surveillance upon them. [Hi guys.] No-one else is willing to put themselves at risk now. Congressional allies now view the small group as carrying a legal ebola virus. Contact is now a risk.

    I consider Congressman Devin Nunes one of the two heroes of this story. The other is Admiral Mike Rogers.

    Rogers warned Trump that his transition team was under surveillance right after the election. For this the Obama people tried to fire him from his position at NSA.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Elections, Politics, Trump | 10 Comments »

    Disruption – MoviePass

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on January 7th, 2018 (All posts by )

    MoviePass is a service that has gained a lot of new users lately – it allows you to see unlimited movies (only one a day) each month for $9.95, which is essentially the price of a single ticket. How it works is that they give you a Mastercard that is connected to your mobile phone – when you get to the theater, you connect with them at that time and they authorize the card specifically for the amount needed to pay for the movie and then you pay and go inside. The process is set up so that theaters can’t deny MoviePass at the box office because it is basically just another Mastercard and the only way to disable it would be to disable accept MasterCard, which is impractical or likely impossible for a host of reasons. The movie theaters receive the full price of the ticket through MoviePass, even if it is more than the $9.95 subscription fee (movies can cost almost $20 in Manhattan, for instance). In the short term, this is a “boon” for movie theaters because Wall Street investors are subsidizing their full price tickets.

    Here is a NYT article on the growth of MoviePass. Per the article, they are adding 1 million subscribers a month. The ostensible play (what they say) is that they plan to “break even” on the cost of the service (if you see roughly one movie / month) but then they will make their money on using data from customers in an aggregated fashion to sell to the movie studios for marketing and targeting. They believe that this data and targeting consumers can add 5-7% to the box office gross. Note that the guy who helped found MoviePass was an executive at Netflix and RedBox named Mitch Lowe and he is very sophisticated financially and connected so he is a serious rival to the movie industry in general.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Tech | 6 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on January 4th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Cold Spring Shops:  Losing the Intellectual Tradition.  He cites Joy Pullman, who in turn quotes Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn:

    We’re living in a time as if some blight has come across the earth. Something fantastic, something deep, something old, something elevated, something high is basically being obliterated.

    Also from Cold Spring Shops:  Collaboration creates mediocrity.  I would rephrase this to say that collaboration can create mediocrity, especially when used as an unthinking buzzword and deployed as a pseudo-religion…after all, the purpose of basically all organizations is to allow people to collaborate, in various ways, to do what they could not do individually.  But shallow thoughts about collaboration and de-leveling and de-siloing and de-hierarchicalization are indeed in many cases detracting from the serious work that needs to be done on organizational design.

    At Politico: The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook.  See also a response to this story from The DiploMad.

    Related, from Roger Simon:  Iran protests expose mainstream media as reationary, not liberal.

    Three from Sarah Hoyt:

    Childhood memories:  The things that stay

    The importance of feedback:  Breaking the Gears

    Of course they do:  When the Left bullies, they pose as anti-bullies

     

    Posted in Academia, Business, Crime and Punishment, Education, Leftism, Management, Media, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Disruption – Amazon Basics and Amazon Essentials

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on January 2nd, 2018 (All posts by )

    “Amazon Basics” is a line of low cost products created especially by Amazon. “Amazon Essentials” is an apparel line created by Amazon. This picture has a “basics” speaker and a low cost “essentials” product (the notebook):

    – a portable wireless bluetooth speaker for $19.99

    Essentials dot matrix notebook for bullet journal for $9.92

    I was impressed by both of these items. When you go to Amazon and either the basics or essentials section there is a wide array of products to choose from at amazingly low prices.

    Amazon is choosing which markets and products that they want to compete in directly and they offer what appears to be reasonable quality products at low price points. If you cycle through the product list you can see a lot of everyday products or items that don’t normally have a strong branding component.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Tech | 21 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The Blue Book & the Foreign Emoluments Clause Cases Against the President: Old Questions Answered

    Posted by Jonathan on December 31st, 2017 (All posts by )

    In 1792, the Senate directed President Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to draft a financial statement listing the “emoluments” of “every person holding any civil office or employment under the United States.”[1] Hamilton took more than nine months to draft and submit a response, which spanned some ninety manuscript-sized pages. The report included appointed or administrative personnel in each of the three branches of the federal government, including the Legislative Branch (e.g., the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House and their staffs) and the clerks of the federal courts.[2] But Hamilton’s carefully-worded response did not include the President, Vice President, Senators, or Representatives.[3] The presumptive meaning of this document is that Hamilton accurately responded to the Senate’s precise request: elected officials do not hold office . . . under the United States, and so they were not listed.
     
    Contrary explanations do not hold up…

    Read the rest.

     

    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump, USA | No Comments »

    Entitled

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on December 31st, 2017 (All posts by )

    I see by another link on Insty Saturday afternoon that the United Airlines- Sheila Jackson Lee flap has not quite faded away – much as MS Jackson Lee, AKA ‘the Queen’ or ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee likely wishes it would. I surmise that this bit of congressional bad behavior is still rattling the newshounds and the commentariat for several reasons. The first of these is that ‘Cruella’ is one of the dumber members of Congress. (The honor of the dumbest must go to Hank “Guam Might Tip Over!” Johnson, of whom it might rightfully said – stealing a paraphrase from the late Molly Ivins about another spectacularly dumb career politician – “Lose any more IQ points, and his staff might have to put him in a pot in the corner and water him three times a week.”) But there’s more! ‘Cruella’ Jackson Lee has been acknowledged hands down for many years as the rudest and most abusive boss on Capitol Hill. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Customer Service, Diversions, Human Behavior, Politics | 17 Comments »

    The current Iranian revolt.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on December 30th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Iran was once an ally of the US and Israel. That ended in 1979 with the revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Since then, the Iranians have declared that we are at war. In 1979, during the revolution, they took members of the US embassy staff and the Marine Guards hostage.

    The immediate cause of this action was President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow Iran’s deposed Shah, a pro-Western autocrat who had been expelled from his country some months before, to come to the United States for cancer treatment. However, the hostage-taking was about more than the Shah’s medical care: it was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs.

    That article is typical leftist revisionism. The hostage takers were “students” only as an expression of their age. They were typical “student radicals” seen in most countries undergoing such violent upheavals.

    Carter attempted a hostage rescue which was botched although the military people did their best. The US had no joint forces history and the mission was spread between Army, Air Force and Navy, none of which had worked together before.

    The hostage crisis ended the day Reagan was inaugurated as president and was probably a sign that the Mullahs saw that he would not be played as they had played Carter.

    Now, we have another uprising but this is directed at the regime.

    A wave of spontaneous protests over Iran’s weak economy swept into Tehran on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government just hours after hard-liners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment.

    The demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since the protests that followed the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

    Thousands already have taken to the streets of cities across Iran, beginning at first on Thursday in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city and a holy site for Shiite pilgrims.

    The protests in the Iranian capital, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump tweeting about them, raised the stakes. It also apparently forced state television to break its silence, acknowledging it hadn’t reported on them on orders from security officials.

    The 2009 protests became violent but Obama offered no support.

    CNN tries to spin it but Obama was silent as Iranians were brutalized and killed.

    What is different now ? One, Trump is president. Recently he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decided to move the embassy there.

    There have been many complaints and protests, mostly in the US but he has persisted. This is in stark contrast to prior presidents who were all talk, or no talk, and no action.

    In addition, Obama’s shameful deal with the Iranian mullahs may have destabilized the regime as the rulers greedily gathered in the billions sent by Obama and did nothing for the people. Obama might have, totally inadvertently, destabilized the regime he was trying to support.

    Maybe this is the opening round in regime change.

    David Goldman has discussed Iran’s Syrian quagmire.

    The Iranian regime is ready to sacrifice the most urgent needs of its internal economy in favor of its ambitions in Syria. Iran cut development spending to just one-third of the intended level as state income lagged forecasts during the three quarters ending last December, according to the country’s central bank. Iran sold US$29 billion of crude during the period, up from $25 billion the comparable period last year. The government revenues from oil of US$11 billion (655 trillion rials) were just 70% of official forecasts, and tax revenues of US$17.2 billion came in 15% below expectations.

    Chaos in Iran’s financial system prevents the Iranian government from carrying a larger budget deficit.

    It appears that the Obama payoff with billions of cash has been quickly absorbed by the corrupt regime and its mullahs, which may explain the revolt currently underway. We await developments.

     

    Posted in Iran, Middle East, Obama, Trump | 64 Comments »

    Perspective

    Posted by Jonathan on December 30th, 2017 (All posts by )

    things are looking up

    Chicagoboyz travel the world, and their own backyard, seeking new points of view and exploring new ways of seeing, kicking back and gliding silent and unobserved among the hurried masses.

     

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    2017 Reading, continued

    Posted by David Foster on December 30th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Fed Up, by Danielle DiMartino Booth. Following a successful career on Wall Street, the author in 2008 took a job as an analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  In this primarily-male organization, she did not experience discrimination on account of her sex…but she did face serious prejudice against her on account of not having a PhD.  Her take on the Fed is that is is far too theoretical in its approach and too limited in the backgrounds of its staff:

    Grasping the modus operandi of the Federal Reserve requires first anchoring in your mind two words: hubris and myopia.  We know better than you.  Only our models can decipher and predict the economy.

    The Fed’s battalion of economists–from the top down–believe that their training in the world’s top universities and their unique schooling in analysis gives them wisdom and insight, when in fact their training often blinds them to reality…Virtually no one I met at the bank had ever worked on Wall Street, managed a business, or handled their own investments.

    Indeed, her negative view of the Fed pretty much extends to the economics profession as a whole   Referring to a letter signed by 364 prominent economists in March 1981, which predicted disaster as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s fiscal policies, she approvingly quotes Geoffrey Howe, chancellor of the exchequer, to the effect that an economist was like “a man who knows 364 ways of making love, but doesn’t know any women.” She also cites a 1991 report by the American Economics Association which concluded that university economics programs “may be turning out a generation with two many idiot savants, skilled in technique but innocent of real economic issues.”

    One Fed official that she does speak of very highly is Richard Fisher, who was president of the Dallas Fed when she was there and was a noted critic of the way the quantitative easing program was carried out.  (He is now an advisor to Barclays and a member of the PepsiCo board.)

    Forgotten Victory, by Gary Sheffield.  This is basically a revisionist history of the First World War.  The author argues that–contrary to common opinions–the war, although tragic, was not futile, and that the British Army was not the incompetent organization as which it has often been portrayed, but rather was an institution which developed the ability to learn and to adapt:

    The (British Expeditionary Force) did not simply gape at the trenches with incomprehension in the winter of 1914-15.  Instead, British soldiers at all levels began a process of innovation and experimentation as the BEF rapidly began to adjust to the new conditions of warfare.

    If a unit bethought itself of some useful improvisation, such as a new method of firing rifle grenades, carrying rations or making ingenious loopholes combining a better field of fire with greater safety, details were collected and circulated by Army Headquarters. 

    One area of technical innovation cited by the author was in the artillery.  ‘Predicted’ bombardments, using improved calculation methods which accounted for variation in individual guns as well as such factors as wind speed, allow the preliminary ‘registration’ fires to be dispensed with or at least shortened, thereby increasing the element of surprise.  The instantaneous fuse, which triggered the burst before the shell buried itself in the ground, greatly improved the artillery’s effectiveness at cutting barbed-wire entanglements.  And sound ranging, which has been described as ‘the Manhattan Project of the Great War’, employed some first-class scientific minds and resulted in the ability to locate and destroy enemy artillery positions more effectively.

    More important than the technical and tactical points, of course, is the question of whether the war was really necessary at all.  The author argues that, at least from Britain’s standpoint, it was.

    This book probably deserves a stand-alone review and discussion thread.

    The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages.  I picked this up at a book sale…it is actually a children’s book, recommended for grades 5-8, but makes it good adult reading as well.  Dewey Kerrigan, a 10-year-old aspiring inventor, sets off on a cross-country train trip to be with her father, who is engaged in war work.  She is engaged in designing a radio when a fellow passenger, Dick Feynman, offers to help her.  They are both bound for the same destinations, Los Alamos.

    There is also a sequel, White Sands, Red Menace.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Economics & Finance, History, War and Peace | No Comments »

    Disruption – Delivery

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on December 28th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Traditionally the big companies that handle “last mile” package delivery are Fed Ex (ticker: FDX), UPS (ticker: UPS), and of course the US postal service. These companies have hundreds of thousands of employees (often unionized) and billions of dollars of planes and trucks and other transportation assets.

    Amazon (ticker: AMZN) recently began expanding their transportation capabilities, both in the form of their own airplanes and leveraging an “Uber-like” workforce of contractors leveraging an app to deliver packages in their own cars with a program called “Amazon Flex“.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Tech | 17 Comments »

    A Tale for Children

    Posted by David Foster on December 27th, 2017 (All posts by )

    The Christmas season, in combination with seeing the Churchill movie Darkest Hour, reminded me of a passage from the French author Georges Bernanos.

    In May/June 1940, Nazi Germany defeated the French army. Britain was forced to withdraw its troops at Durkirk–losing virtually all their heavy equipment. Few would have been willing to bet on Britain’s survival…after quickly devastating the (then highly-regarded) French army and demonstrating highly-effective use of airpower, Nazi Germany seemed unstoppable.

    In December of that year, Bernanos, then living in Brazil, wrote as follows:

    No one knows better than I do that, in the course of centuries, all the great stories of the world end by becoming children’s tales. But this particular one (the story of England’s resistance–ed) has started its life as such, has become a children’s tale on the very threshold of its existence. It mean that we can at once recognize in it the threefold visible sign of its nature. it has deceived the anticipations of the wise, it has humiliated the weak-hearted, it has staggered the fools. Last June all these folk from one end of the world to the other, no matter what the color of their skins, were shaking their heads. Never had they been so old, never had they been so proud of being old. All the figures that they had swallowed in the course of their miserable lives as a safeguard against the highly improbable activity of their emotions had choked the channels of circulation..They were ready to prove that with the Armistice of Rethondes the continuance of the war had become a mathematical impossibility…Some chuckled with satisfaction at the thought, but they were not the most dangerous…Others threatened us with the infection of pity…”Alone against the world,” they said. “Why, what is that but a tale for children?” And that is precisely what it was–a tale for children. Hurrah for the children of England! 

    Men of England, at this very moment you are writing what public speakers like to describe in their jargon as one of the “greatest pages of history”….At this moment you English are writing one of the greatest pages of history, but I am quite sure that when you started, you meant it as a fairy tale for children. “Once upon a time there was a little island, and in that island there was a people in arms against the world…” Faced with such an opening as that, what old cunning fox of politics or business would not have shrugged his shoulders and closed the book?

     

    Posted in Britain, Film, France, History | 16 Comments »

    Chromecast, Roku and Cutting the Cord (Potentially)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on December 26th, 2017 (All posts by )

    It’s Christmas time and we don’t have a fireplace in our high rise apartment. So what’s the next best thing? A video showing the Yule Log (there also is a Nick Offerman 45 minute one where he watches you and drinks whiskey and someone looped it for 10 hours, look it up on You Tube). This is playing through my Chromecast ($20) via Youtube and could be done through my Mac, iPad, or iPhone. And it looks great.

    We finally gave up on our old Samsung TV and bought a new 55 inch “smart” TV from TCL with Roku included. The sound quality is great I got rid of my front speaker and subwoofer when I took my old TV to Goodwill and don’t plan to buy a new one (maybe I will with Xmas gift cards). Once we connected it to our router I was surprised at how high quality the TV picture was and how fast it booted up. You can quickly go into either Roku or something like the Chromecast (below) or just turn on the cable box directly (we have xfinity). Right here at the intersection of huge amounts of online content, high bandwidth, and seamless performance you can see how cable dies (although cable provides our Internet service, but this is a parallel question).
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    Posted in Tech | 12 Comments »

    Holiday Wishes

    Posted by Jonathan on December 24th, 2017 (All posts by )

    May all members of the Chicago Boyz community enjoy a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2018.

     

    Posted in Holidays | 4 Comments »

    Apple MacBook, Planned Obsolescence and AirPods

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on December 23rd, 2017 (All posts by )

    Apple has been in the midst of a long term inter-operability / consolidation of its IOS and MacOS environments. When I first started using my MacBook and converting over from a PC in 2012-2013 there was almost no ability to communicate / transfer between my phone or iPad and my MacBook. I remember being bewildered that there wasn’t even an app on MacOS to read Kindle books that I had on my iPad (and even today the MacOS app is a bit wonky).

    Today there is some ability to use my MacBook from 2011 alongside my iPad and my iPhone. The key elements of inter operability include:

    – Apple Messages works well between the devices. This is probably the biggest single unlock for my MacBook by far
    – Apple Photos now work pretty seamlessly between all the devices. After Apple Messenger this is the next biggest “win”
    – if you use iCloud you can share across all devices
    – Facetime and answering calls works across all devices, depending on whether or not you want to turn it on (can be annoying when your computer “rings” when your iPhone rings)
    – Notes works well across all devices and has been getting more powerful with each release (for items like to-do lists, etc…)

    The apps on the MacOS still lag far behind those available for the iPhone. I don’t know what the long term plan is for this. I know that apps function differently on each environment; common apps like “Bitmoji” work great on my iPhone, kind of OK on my iPad (I have an attached keyboard so it is strange and locks in portrait mode), and not at all on my MacOS (or I haven’t really even tried it.
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    Posted in Tech | 5 Comments »

    I Am a Barbarian

    Posted by Jay Manifold on December 23rd, 2017 (All posts by )

    Scott, James C. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.

    Scott has hit another metaphorical grand slam with this one, a worthily disconcerting follow-on to his earlier work. I have previously read (in order of publication, rather than the order in which I encountered them) The Moral Economy of the Peasant, Seeing Like a State, and Two Cheers for Anarchism, and found them congenial. Scott is particularly good at encouraging a non-elite viewpoint deeply skeptical of State power, and in Against the Grain he applies this to the earliest civilizations. Turns out they loom large in our imagination due to the a posteriori distribution of monumental ruins and written records—structures that were often built by slaves and records created almost entirely to facilitate heavy taxation and conscription. Outside of “civilization” were the “barbarians,” who turn out to have simply been those who evaded control by the North Koreas and Venezuelas of their time, rather than the untutored and truculent caricatures of the “civilized” histories.

    By these criteria, the United States of America is predominately a barbarian nation. In the order given above:

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Culture, Current Events, Education, Entrepreneurship, History, Immigration, International Affairs, Latin America, Law Enforcement, Libertarianism, Markets and Trading, Military Affairs, National Security, North America, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs, Transportation, USA | 7 Comments »

    2017 Reading, continued

    Posted by David Foster on December 23rd, 2017 (All posts by )

    A Prophet Without Honor, by Joseph Wurtenbaugh.  An outstanding work of alternative history.

    It is now known that when Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936, his forces were under orders to withdraw if faced by serious opposition by the (then-much-superior) French and British militaries.  But these countries did not take action, being focused on their economic problems and convincing themselves that the German move wasn’t really much of a threat.  But they didn’t know about the Withdrawal Order.  What if they had?

    Some of the characters are fictional, others are real people imagined as following different trajectories.  The central figure is a German officer named Karl von Haydenreich; he has become friends with American officer Dwight Eisenhower and this friendship will prove critical in changing the course of history.

    Very well-done, should not be missed.

    The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz.  Advice about running a startup from a venture capitalist…the author is cofounder of the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.  A lot of worthwhile points, some of which should be obvious, others not so much so.

    Understanding what you did wrong if you hired an executive who did not work out:  Horowitz goes through several possible causes of the failure, including this:

    You hired for lack of weakness rather than for strengths.  This is especially common when you run a consensus-based hiring process.  The group will often find the candidate’s weaknesses, but they won’t place a high enough value on the areas where you need the executive to be a world-class performer.  As a result, you hire an executive with no sharp weakness, but who is mediocre where you need her to be great.

    On excessive focus on quantitative metrics:  “Management purely by numbers is sort of like painting by numbers–it’s strictly for amateurs.”

    I especially like Horowitz’s emphasis on the importance of organization design, and the point that all such designs are compromises…indeed:

    The first rule of organizational design is that all organizational designs are bad.  With any design, you will optimize communication among some parts of the organization at the expense of other parts.  For example, if you put product management in the engineering organization, you will optimize communication between product management and engineering at the expense of product management and marketing.  As a result, as soon as you roll out the new organization, people will find fault with it, and they will be right…Think of the organizational design as the communications architecture for your company.  If you want people to communicate, the best way to accomplish that is to make them report to the same manager.  By contrast, the further away people are on the organizational chart, the less they will communicate. The organizational design is also the template for how the company communicates with the outside world.

    The book was inspired by this thought:  “Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, ‘That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.'”  For example:

    The hard thing isn’t hiring great people.  That hard thing is when those ‘great people’ develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things…The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

    Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford.  Includes not just the sort of things that would typically show up in an ‘inventions’ list, but also such things as double-entry bookkeeping, tradable debt, the welfare state, and the department store.

    Regarding the latter, Harford credits Harry Gordon Selfridge, who worked for Marshall Field, with creating the concept.  Key to the new stores was the idea that “just looking” was okay, indeed was to be positively encouraged.

    Selfridge swept away the previous shopkeepers’ custom of stashing the merchandise in places where sales assistants had to fetch it for you…he instead laid it out in the open-aisle displays we now take for granted, where you can touch a product, pick it up, and inspect it from all angles, without a salesperson hovering by your side…Shopping had long been bound up with social display: the old arcades of the great European cities, displaying their fine cotton fashions–gorgeously lit with candles and mirrors–were places for the upper classes not only to see but to be seen.  Selfridge had no truck with snobbery or exclusivity.  (When he opened his London store), His advertisements pointedly made cleaer that the ‘whole British public’ would be welcome–no cards of admission are required.”

    Harford also mentions an Irish immigrant to America named Alexander Turney Stewart.  It was Stewart who introduced “the shocking concept of not hassling customers the moment they walked through the door. He called this novel policy ‘free entrance.”  Stewart also introduced the concept of the clearance sale and established a no-haggle pricing policy for his good.

    Discussion of inventions such as the department store provides a useful reminded that so many of the things we take for granted–with ‘things’ including assumptions about ways of doing things as well as tangible objects–haven’t always existed; somebody had to think of them and drive them into reality.

    This post to be further continued.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Customer Service, Entrepreneurship, Europe, Germany, History, Management, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 4 Comments »

    Seasonal Madness

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on December 22nd, 2017 (All posts by )

    I swear, I have no idea why the denizens of celebrity-world are going nuts lately. The distinct possibility is that most of them were always nuts, and I – despite once having had a nice collection of subscriptions to publications like Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, and Rolling Stone, and a mild and mostly professional interest in the entertainment field generally – managed to not notice the frothing waves of insanity emanating from the world of popular entertainment … since … Well, I think some entertainment figures began to go nuts about a decade ago, but in the last year it’s been … OMG, are these people allowed out without a keeper?
    And this was before Pervenado, and the revelation to the wider public that apparently just about every big producer, star, or media figure in a position of authority is a sex-crazed perv who cannot keep their nasty hands off lower-level staff or prospective employees. Well, it wasn’t like the existence of the casting couch was that big a secret, but still …
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Diversions, Law, Leftism, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    2017 Reading

    Posted by David Foster on December 20th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Some books I’ve read during the year and consider very worthwhile…

    Tom Jones and other works, by Henry Fielding.  Somehow I had never previously read Fielding (who wrote between 1728 and 1755)…now that I have, I am very impressed.  Interesting characters, clever and intricate plotting, many passages that are very funny, and the author, I think, shows great insight into human behavior.  (In addition to his literary efforts, Fielding served as a magistrate and is credited with establishing London’s first professional police force, popularly known as the Bow Street Runners.)

    Fielding sometimes breaks out of the narrative, most notably in Tom Jones, and addresses himself directly to the reader.  In one rather touching passage, he explains why he has taken the trouble to write the book–certainly for money, he says, but also “with the hopes of charming ages yet to come.  Foretel me that some tender maid, whose grandmother is yet unborn, hereafter, when, under the fictitious name of Sophie, she reads the real worth which once existed in my Charlotte, shall from her sympathetic breast send forth the heaving sigh”

    In addition to Tom Jones, I’ve also read his Amelia, Joseph Andrews, and the wonderfully-titled An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews. All are IMO well worth reading.

    Harmony, by Chicago Grrll Margaret Ball. This is a series, encompassing three books.

    With the development of interstellar travel, humanity had the chance for a fresh start. The colonization of a new planet was carried out with the explicit intent to create a society that would avoid the miseries of the past, that would be based on the principle of harmony.

    (Think about a society designed from the ground up by someone like Hillary Clinton.)  Of course, it works out about as well as utopian projects usually work out.)

    For those who don’t fit in to the Harmonious society, there is exile to a colony known as Esilia.  Book 1, Insurgents, is focused on the Esilian struggle for independence against the forces of Harmony.  Gabrel, a leader of the independence movement, seizes Isovel, daughter of the commander of the invading forces, as hostage.

    In Book 2, Awakening, the protagonist Devra is an unlicensed child, who never should have been allowed to be born.  In an attempt to overcome the stigma of her very existence, Devra makes a point of extreme conformity to Harmony’s rules and expectations.  But when one of her students is threatened with ‘medical rehabilitation,’ she finds herself questioning her role as a good Harmony citizen.

    In Book 3, Survivors, Harmony’s society is approaching collapse. Jillian, a soap opera star in holodramas, has been largely insulated from the impoverishment that is afflicting so many.  When a farm boy named Ruven comes to the city to plead for better terms for his dairy cooperative, she uses her acting skills to teach him how to appeal to the emotions as well as to logical thought.

    A Balcony in the Forest, by Julian Gracq.  In preparing for the German onslaught which actually came in May of 1940, the French general staff made some serious errors.  One was to view the heavily-wooded sector of the Ardennes as basically impassible by major forces.  Hence, the French did not fortify this sector to anywhere near the level of the Maginot Line sector, further to the southeast; furthermore, the troops sent to hold the Ardennes were mostly what one writer referred to as “class B divisions composed of middle-aged reservists.”

    The protagonist of Gracq’s novel is one of these middle-aged reservists, a dreamy sort of man named Lieutenant Grange, who is assigned to command a blockhouse and a small group of soldiers.  It is the period of the ‘phony war’, and Grange has a hard time believing that the war will ever become hot.  He finds that he loves the Ardennes, though, and his assignment gives him a great deal of satisfaction–especially when he meets a local girl named Mona and things develop rapidly between them.

    A strange, almost surrealistic book, with some beautiful descriptive writing.  A commenter at Goodreads remarked that the Ardennes is portrayed as “a mythic forest, by definition unreal, must also be indifferent to human beings- eternity doesn’t bother itself with trifles- and Grange is but a reclusive watchman on this magic mountain during this staggeringly brief period of months closing shut like the jaws of a wolf devouring a faun.”

    Available at Amazon, both Kindle and paperback.

    This post to be continued.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, Space, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Week of Tantrum

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on December 15th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Well, this has been a festival of tantrums, has it not? What with ISIS/ISIL/Whatever is now huffing and puffing, threatening to blow our Christmas cottage down, and to execute President Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. Might have some luck with some sub-normally-intelligent specimen of Muslim humanity with delusions of adequacy walking into a public place with a badly-constructed pipe-bomb, but looking on the most recent fearless lone-wolf jihadi warrior, who only managed to semi-eviscerate himself in trying to blow up … which reminds me, have the usual suspects begun winging on about the anti-Muslim backlash which, miraculously, never seems to descend? I’ve been sick as a dog all week with a seasonal cold, so it might have actually happened, and I never noticed. Meanwhile, the Palestinians and their fellow-traveler-symps in the Western world have declared another day of rage with regard to President Trump following through on the ever-so-tentative concept agreed upon by how many previous administrations – that the US embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Feminism, Media | 64 Comments »

    Technology, Work, and Society – The Age of Transition

    Posted by David Foster on December 15th, 2017 (All posts by )

    I recently read an intriguing book concerned with the exponential advances in technology and the impact thereof on human society.  The author believes that the displacement of human labor by technology is in its very early stages, and sees little limit to the process.  He is concerned with how this will affect–indeed, has already affected–the relationship between the sexes and of parents and children, as well as the ability of ordinary people to earn a decent living.  It’s a thoughtful analysis by someone who clearly cares a great deal about the well-being of his fellow citizens.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Business, Capitalism, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, History, Society, Tech | 14 Comments »